What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

On Not Accepting the World

While we at WWWtW do not agree about everything, one thing we do agree about is the legitimacy and even the importance of being countercultural in various ways. As a home schooler, I believe that one of the most important ways of being countercultural is in quite literally not accepting some of the conditions the world places upon us.

I realize that this "not accepting the world" phrase is vague, and there's probably no way around that, but let me give you an example of what I mean:

A few months back I got a copy of Focus on the Family's little magazine that they send to all the people in the country who have ever written to them. It had an entire article on how to tell if your daughter is secretly engaging in obsessive-compulsive self-mutilation such as cutting herself with knives, poking herself with pins, and so forth. Well, okay, the article was also about how to tell if your child is on drugs. It was about "self-destructive behaviors." But the cutting stuff was what really struck me.

Let me venture a conjecture. This literally insane behavior is a trend, a trope, a thing ordinary kids don't do if they don't hear about other people doing it but that slightly unbalanced adolescent and college-age girls are doing now because some of their friends do it, which creates a snowball effect. I'm not that old, and kids certainly did engage do self-destructive things--drugs, underage drinking, and premarital sex--when I was young. (At least these bad behaviors are expected to be associated with some degree of physical pleasure!) But I never so much as heard of any girl, disturbed or normal, nerd or athlete, outcast or popular, ugly or pretty, cutting herself with knives and poking herself with pins. What is this nonsense?

The first intimation I had that there was any such thing in American culture was when a college professor acquaintance wrote to me some five years ago and mentioned that two of his female students were addicted to "cutting" and wanted help to stop. Then another college professor friend mentioned the same thing about some of his female students. But I still didn't know it was widespread until I read this FOF article and saw that it must be a "thing" these days. The article quoted one girl as saying that she had a friend who was "into cutting" and wanted to know how to help her. So call me behind the eight-ball. Maybe some of my readers can tell me how long this has been going on. But mark my words: Twenty years ago it was not anywhere near widespread enough for a Christian parenting magazine to bother giving parents advice about it.

Now, what I mean by "not accepting the world" in the context of this "cutting" nonsense is, quite simply, keeping your young girls sufficiently sheltered, happy, and healthy that they either never hear of anyone's doing this or that, if they did, they would take the entirely normal-person attitude and say, "Yeeeech! Why would anybody do that?!" And they don't run around with friends who do it. Sure, they have their adolescent ups and downs (at least when they're adolescents). But not going to school means that there is no social group they know of in which people do such horrible stuff, so they just never hear of it or think it's gross if they should happen to hear of it, as of some foreign and disgusting thing done by people in another culture far away.

Am I blaming Focus on the Family for talking about it? Not really, though I must admit that I feel a little strange about having to hide Focus on the Family's magazine from my eight-year-old and wishing even my older girl hadn't picked it up off the counter! But I am saying that it's become increasingly obvious to me over the past few years of browsing that FOF is pitching to an audience of schooling parents--even parents whose kids are going to public schools--whose children are immersed, as far as social environment, in some extremely bad stuff and who are then frantically running around trying to do damage control.

Another instance of this audience oddity was the article in the same magazine about the HPV vaccine. This particular article pretty much promoted the vaccine, and it did not make a great secret of the fact that some sort of sexual interaction (even if not full intercourse) was only to be expected among the early adolescent children of its audience members. Some of the medical information was questionable as well, as the article implied that there is decisive evidence that girls vaccinated around age 11 are then better protected against the virus throughout life than girls who are not vaccinated, retain their virginity, and get vaccinated later, if necessary (if their fiance has not previously been chaste), shortly before marriage.

I had a discussion of the medical issues here, and though at first it appeared that I had missed some real evidence to this effect, in the end it turned out that this "better protection throughout life if vaccinated in childhood" claim rested on a) a study that wasn't (as far as I could ascertain) documented to have controlled for sexual activity, so that the weaker effect in the older women might have been a result of previous exposure to the virus and b) conjecture based on the fact that children tend to have especially strong immune responses to vaccinations. None of this addressed the very real possibility that any effect of the vaccination given to a child--however robust--would have worn off in the ten or more years before a girl was actually getting married. Nor did it address the extreme oddity of vaccinating children for a virus to which they may never be exposed, solely on the grounds that children have a more robust immune response to vaccinations than adults. Do we vaccinate all American children against tropical diseases on the grounds that they may someday visit the tropics?

They can say what they like about how Christian parents with chaste teens should consider giving a vaccine for a venereal disease to their minor girls, but it is patently obvious to me that we would not be discussing this vaccine at all if sexual promiscuity of some kind were not expected in girls ages 12 and up. And I don't accept that, either. Because I don't accept the world.

The moral here is that we parents need to stop being so helpless. No, we can't control everything. But instead of immersing our kids in every manner of junk and filth and then wringing our hands, we can just say "no" to their being exposed to some things. And that's the kind of counterculturalism that will prevent a lot of heartbreak and a lot of misery.

Comments (40)

I wonder what what drives this kind of behavior and what kind of pleasure is derived from it.

...kids certainly did engage do self-destructive things--drugs, underage drinking, and premarital sex--when I was young. (At least these bad behaviors are expected to be associated with some degree of physical pleasure!)


Kids,
The moral of the story here is so long as you are engaging in activities wherein you actually derive physical pleasure such as drugs, underage drinking, premarital sex; that's okay and acceptable!


(Ooops -- wait, maybe this outrageous act of 'cutting' is to these folks as pleasurable as the sex, drugs, etc.)


Either way, personally, I find these (drugs, pre-martital sex, cutting, etc.) unacceptable behaviour (no matter what pleasure is derived) as far as my kids are concerned -- especially since we're Christian!

I tend to think its about depression, or the realization that one is a failure. Rather than do the hard work of engaging with the world, of moving from passivity to activity, the person cuts themselves. Cutting is hard work, and can act as a poor substitute for actually getting a life.

A cutter is basically saying "I realize I'm living a poor life. The pain of cutting is punishment for that failure. Therefore I can continue in my crappy life."

Plus, the brain releases some snazzy chemical or another. Cut yourself and you'll get a tiny high.

I forgot my second point.

I don't see how keeping one's children from knowing about this stuff could possibly help. Keeping them happy and healthy, sure, but "sheltered?" If your kids fall into depression, they'll find another, just as strange, way of acting it out.

David, do you actually think that's what Lydia thinks? Why offer such a snide, knee-jerk response?

To MikeWC:

You wrote: I don't see how keeping one's children from knowing about this stuff could possibly help.

What do you think helps, MikeWC?

Lydia,

Perhaps what is at work here is yet another expression of individualistic despair. Cutting and other self-destructive behaviors (and I'll add eating disorders to your mix) are really small scale suicides or self-abasements. What would drive a teenager to this kind of behavior?

Perhaps it is the overwhelming loneliness inherent in an individualistic culture, where the only thing that matters is how one stands out as an individual rather than how one serves and grows in community. When a teenager with no sense of community beyond himself (or his immediate family) is faced with failure in his quest for meaning as an individual, he turns to behavior that serves two purposes (as alluded to in a previous comment). First, it serves to confirm the degradation of the individual. Second, it serves as a last resort to stand out as that individual who so far has failed to stand out.

I applaud your desire contra the world in this respect and sheltering is, indeed, an element of that labor as parents. But perhaps of greater importance is to train up our children to understand and love their standing in community and in covenant with God's people. In that regard, as St. Paul tells us in Romans 12, we are to be living sacrifices, all serving as members of one body in Christ.

It might be symptomatic of a cultural death wish.

(The following not in any particular order.)

David B.,

*Of course* these are all unacceptable behaviors! Good grief! Surely you don't take an "at least" phrase, and especially from someone advocating "not accepting the world," to mean anything else. But I'd like to think that you could agree that there is something more sick about simply hurting oneself, about sheer physically destructive masochism, than about falling for the siren song of physical pleasure. God, after all, made pleasure for a reason. One day it will be perfectly healthy for my children to have sex and enjoy it--with their husbands. It will never be healthy for them to sit around in their bedrooms cutting their arms with knives. This should be clear.

MikeWC,

I'm going to stick to what I said about sheltering. I definitely think there's a section of the outcome space in which a girl (I'm going to stick to girls, since they seem to be the ones most affected here) could be equally upset or disturbed but would either not engage in an outright physically destructive behavior or would engage in one _less_ sick and destructive than this one if she had been sheltered from the idea, and esp. if she'd been sheltered from a peer group in which she actually knew and liked people who did this or in which people were upsetting their parents by doing this and using it as a type of rebellion or a way to "get back at" the world by self-harm. There's a lot to be said for not giving kids ideas. I'd say the same of sexual experimentation. There are plenty of sex acts they are less likely to think of on their own if somebody doesn't start talking about them. And kids are great copy-cats. This is why everybody is upset about marketing cigarettes to kids, right? If they associate a behavior with someone they otherwise think well of, if they are taught to "see themselves" doing that thing, they are more likely to think of it as an option for themselves.

I think the "they're just going to do it anyway" or "they'll just find something else to do" mindset is part of the whole "helplessness parenting" I'm writing against. There's an odd idea out there that there's no point whatsoever in not filling people's heads with garbage. The idea seems to be that we should just fill our and our children's heads with every horrible idea and image imaginable, but that if we're "doing our job" we'll be able to "handle it." This is rather like dumping poison into your food and then taking something to make yourself throw up. Or throwing all your household utensils into the sewer and then trying to wash them off. Why do it?

So, no, I don't think an equally unstable girl will just find something equally bad to do. If I had to bet, I'd guess a girl left to her own devices with a similar temperament to some of these girls would become a nail biter. I certainly did, and I have nothing good to say about nail biting. It was incredibly hard to kick the habit. But it didn't do me as much harm (mentally or physically) as becoming psychologically addicted to cutting myself with a knife or poking myself with pins!

Thanks for your defense against Mr. B. :-)

I think you may be on to something about this cutting thing as an expression of a sense that one is living a lousy life. There's a lot of self-hatred involved here. More about that in a mo.

KW and Jon,

It's my best shot at an opinion here that what's driving this is that these girls think they are ugly and/or bad. This is, in fact, another part of sheltering--keeping them from having a peer group that constantly attacks their sense of self-worth, choosing instead a less high-pressure peer group, and associating their sense of self more with the opinions of mature and normal people (aka adults).

I have a friend with a very physically lovely daughter in public school--just graduated this year. Apparently she's doing okay; not doing any of this bad stuff. But according to her mom she constantly says she is ugly. Nothing her mom says will get her to stop calling herself ugly. I remember very well feeling this way in school. In my own case (I can't imagine that this is true of my friend S's daughter) I was _told_ that I was ugly, repeatedly, by acquaintances in school and, after I transferred to a better school, in youth group. It was pretty much unremitting--a focus on physical attractiveness together with the strong implication that whoever else might be pretty, _you yourself_ were never pretty.

Girls are emotional critters. This kind of thing wears on them, especially during years when their hormones are doing all sorts of crazy things and when they have plenty of academic and other pressures. And when they are spending countless hours with their peers, _those_ are the people whose opinion matters to them, not adults with more normal social skills and more normal measures of evaluation. I think these girls get tense, nervous, and unhappy and start doing bad things with a weird sense that this is a form of "escape." I _think_, though, that self-harm is unlikely to take this particularly "pure" form, though, unless they pick it up somewhere as a thing people do.

Eating disorders I'm not so sure about. I suppose that would be easier for a girl to invent for herself if she was trying to get thin, because the connection there seems more obvious. "If I throw up after eating, I'll lose weight." Stupid, but the kind of thing I'm afraid a girl might think of for herself. But, again, if they are not in this pressure-cooker social atmosphere, they are less likely to be obsessed with their own body and looks and with self-hatred in that connection.

The 2 quotes below may help in formulating a strategy towards redeeming the culture;

"It is pathetic to see some Christians renting their clothes about the propositions about sexual life that come from secular society while at the same time defending wholeheartedly the moral autonomy of modern economics or politics." Javier Martinez Archbishop of Granada

"The logic of chastity is fatally opposed to the logic of consumerism. To live chastely requires that one master and control one's desires. As St. Thomas Aquinas points out, "chastity takes its name from the fact that reason chastises concupiscence." The logic of chastity implies an ascetic attitude toward life.

The logic of consumerism is quite the opposite. Advertising, the propaganda of the consumer society, attempts to arouse desire and to convince us that a certain purchase will satisfy it."
Christopher W. Decker

Amazingly enough, in a 2005 Interview with actress Angelina Jolie, she admitted to engaging in 'cutting' behaviour when she was an adolescent.

Apparently, for her, the reason for the fascination with 'cutting' at that time early in her life was that it made her feel 'alive'.

Personally, just suffering paper cuts give me a whole other 'feeling'.

It's the same thing with "extreme" sports. People are dead inside, and they need intense feeling--even facing death--to feel alive. Maybe it has something to do with our sentimental culture, our emotions are drained constantly and we become numb.

What do you think helps, MikeWC?

Teach kids to be active. Develop talents and friendships. To take care of themselves, to chase after life. Depression is the sign all this has failed.

I definitely think there's a section of the outcome space in which a girl... could be equally upset or disturbed but would either not engage in an outright physically destructive behavior or would engage in one _less_ sick and destructive than this one if she had been sheltered from the idea

Sure, maybe. But so what? Cutting is a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. A couple of tiny little cuts on someone's leg isn't going to hurt them. The importance of cutting is what the cutting signifies. The signified is the real problem.

Nobody cuts habitually just because their friend cuts. That would be equivelent to a happy person commiting suicide just because a friend did. So monitering peer groups for the specific behaviour of cutting won't be effective.

If I had to bet, I'd guess a girl left to her own devices with a similar temperament to some of these girls would become a nail biter. I certainly did, and I have nothing good to say about nail biting.

But was your real problem the nail biting, or whatever was making you unstable?

I guess all I really want to argue is that keeping people from knowledge only ever produces the most superficial kind of life.

So monitering peer groups for the specific behaviour of cutting won't be effective.

How can you monitor if you're not aware of the symptoms?

That's ridiculous.


Cutting is a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. A couple of tiny little cuts on someone's leg isn't going to hurt them. The importance of cutting is what the cutting signifies. The signified is the real problem.

In order to even find out if there actually is a problem, you'd first need to know what are its symptoms!

That's like telling a medical student, "Hey, who cares what the symptoms of a disease are; what's important is that there is actually a disease!"

However, how are you supposed to know a disease even exists if not for knowing its symptoms?

Mike, I think we really disagree. Cutting oneself is both a symptom and a problem. There is a reason why various behaviors are called "self-destructive"! Because they are! Would you really say that a person who feels anxious but does not (say) develop a physically damaging obsessive-compulsive habit is *just as badly off* as a person who does? I tell you straight out--you are so wrong. A bad habit is a bad thing in itself. It creates a vicious cycle wherein one of the things you are anxious about and one of the things you hate yourself for is your bad habit. It creates chains. It is a form of slavery of the self and of the mind. It creates an additional barrier to getting back to normal life. It harms you physically and psychologically.

Think of alcoholism. It is both a symptom and a problem. Once you become an alcoholic, you then have _bigger_ problems than those that made you emotionally unstable and that got you into alcoholism. That's because the alcoholism is a problem in itself. The same with drugs, the same with cigarette smoking. And definitely, the same with cutting oneself with knives!

No happy girl cuts herself _just_ because her friend does so. True. But I'm quite sure there are plenty of mildly to moderately unhappy girls who would have an easier time getting out of their unhappiness, dealing with it, and getting back to normal or at least coping with life relatively well if they _didn't_ have friends who did this and gave them the idea of it as a response to anxiety and unhappiness. I'm surprised you would deny this or would really hold to the thesis that it doesn't really matter whether your daughter deals with her nerves, her worries, her unhappiness, by cutting herself with knives, because those antecedent instabilities are all that matters! That's just so completely wrong. Of course it matters. You want her to handle those things _without_ developing enchaining, bizarre, masochistic, destructive, and psychologically unhealthy addictions. That only adds to her problems.

What was my "real problem"? My "real problem" was a combination of (in the grand scheme of things) minor life worries, an anxious and naturally obsessive-compulsive personality, nasty peers, adolescent hormones, *and* the development of a life-long bad habit in response to all the rest of it. Of _course_ that was one of my real problems! A habit like that takes on a life of its own. It rules you and you fight it even when you become otherwise relatively happy as life goes on. You then fall back into it at the slightest anxiety or worry, of which even the happiest life (of course) always has some, because that's what it means to have developed an engrained habit early in life. I'm sure an alcoholic would say the same, because I suspect all of these things--even those that are relatively minor, like nail-biting--have a similar psychological profile.

"[K]eeping people from knowledge only ever produces the most superficial kind of life."

Really? We need to know everything? Every sick thing people do, kids need to know? Every masochistic habit people develop, your life will be deepened by knowing about? So as not to have a "superficial" life, your teenager needs to know about every way to harm himself that other people have thought up, and then prove how healthy he is by not doing them? Nonsense! This statement is a mere slogan. Certainly we do _not_ need to know about everything that is "out there." There are plenty of things I wish I didn't know about, and in today's world I think any sane person should say the same.

How can you monitor if you're not aware of the symptoms?

That's ridiculous.

This is the second time in a single thread that you've offered a snide response. Both times you failed to read carefully and to understand what the original poster was saying.

Think of alcoholism. . . And definitely, the same with cutting oneself with knives!

These are really fuzzy comparisons. Drugs, alcohol and cigarettes are physiologically addictive - your body needs the chemicals. Drug addiction isn't about an emotional state.

I'm surprised you would deny this or would really hold to the thesis that it doesn't really matter whether your daughter deals with her nerves, her worries, her unhappiness, by cutting herself with knives, because those antecedent instabilities are all that matters!

It's important to point out that I think that cutting is exactly the opposite of this - it is refusing to deal with all these problems.

What was my "real problem"? My "real problem" was a combination of (in the grand scheme of things) minor life worries, an anxious and naturally obsessive-compulsive personality, nasty peers, adolescent hormones, *and* the development of a life-long bad habit in response to all the rest of it.

And minus all those other things, you'd just be a person with ugly finger nails.

It rules you and you fight it even when you become otherwise relatively happy as life goes on. You then fall back into it at the slightest anxiety or worry, of which even the happiest life (of course) always has some, because that's what it means to have developed an engrained habit early in life.

You just said that the anxiety comes first, than the nail biting. What is ruling you and what are you fighting - the nail biting or the anxiety?

MikeWC,

Why not restate your latter remark within the framework mentioned in Lydia's post; that is:

What is ruling you and what are you fighting - the alcoholism or the anxiety?

In many cases, although the anxiety may have led one to develop alcoholism; once that habit has formed, it no longer becomes the anxiety that leads a person to the drinking but the habit itself!

Needless to say, Lydia made a sufficiently good point in her post.

Mike,

I have trouble knowing quite where to begin in answering you. You seem to be thinking that the only things involved in the case of a girl who cuts herself obsessively with knives and pins are A) the actual physical damage she does herself and B) the previous bad feelings and psychological hang-ups that first led her to start doing this.

Now, I do think you underestimate A. Even from the article mentioned in the main post, I gathered that girls who are "into" this do it so much that they have many small cuts all over their arms in some cases and wear long-sleeved clothes in the summer to hide it. That's not just "a few" cuts with unsterilized sharps, and it's courting some unpleasant things like blood poisoning and bacterial infections, the latter a more serious matter now with antibiotic-resistant bacteria going around in the population. If they cut themselves in groups of two or more, which I gather some do, we could be talking about exchanging blood products, which introduces a whole other set of health issues.

But far beyond that is that your apparent assumption that A and B are the only things involved is just false, and false in a fairly important way.

First, you are leaving out the inherent perversion of the act itself. Maybe you don't believe in inherently perverse acts, but I certainly do. Being upset or anxious is nothing like as bad as responding to those feelings by engaging in acts of perversion--in masochistic acts. Those acts are bad both objectively--i.e., they are wrong, and hence damage the soul--and also subjectively, because they have to involve the girl's gearing herself up into a particularly perverse mindset on the spot actually to go so far as to hurt herself. That's really bad for her. The act itself is psychologically bad for her to be doing, above and beyond the physical damage.

Second, you are leaving out the development of enslavement to a bad habit. It is natural to man to have free will and to be able to refrain from those things he knows to be wrong and harmful. That's how God made us. It is both objectively bad and subjectively bad to know you shouldn't be doing something yet to be unable to control your urge to do it, or to have lost your freedom of will and self-control to a very great extent. It's psychologically deeply upsetting, and it is objectively demeaning to your human dignity.

I don't know how much more clearly to put it, though I do not know if you will find any of this convincing.

Now, I do think you underestimate A.

The risk is variable and contingent. And it's not like they're cutting with rusty shears and rolling in dirt.

B) the previous bad feelings and psychological hang-ups that first led her to start doing this.

That's just it, I don't think the symptom exists indepedently of the underlying problem. The bad feelings and psychological hangups are not past tense. They are not only the "previous" feelings, they are also the co-existent feelings. Get rid of those feelings, get rid of the act. Not the other way around.

First, you are leaving out the inherent perversion of the act itself.

Ok, let's say the acts themselves are bad. If this is considering to be the most important point, the central idea of this discussion, a major problem will appear.

The person will be convinced that acting out their anxiety in a certain way is bad. So they stop acting out. But the anxiety remains. It will build, and then it will come out in a more extreme way.

Even if it is true that the acts themselves are bad, that knowledge is not helpful in solving the problem - all it does is defer it.

Mike, you seem to have no concept of a vicious cycle. Anxiety can be built _by_ "acting out." You seem also to have the erroneous psychological idea that "getting it out of your system" is of paramount importance. Actually, some ways of responding to negative feelings by acting on them build more of them rather than "getting them out." (A good example here is yelling and screaming at people at whom you are angry. It used to be thought that this was good because it was cathartic. But as anyone who has a problem with anger knows experientially, giving vent in this way actually only generates more feelings of anger. I gather psychologists have come around on that point, as well.)

Certainly if a young lady is depressed, tense, thinks she's ugly, and so forth, something needs to be done about that. My own take is that perhaps what needs to be done most of all is to get her away from people who are tearing her down and helping to make her feel that way and to find her some new friends. But it is not at all obvious that if she does not take up masochistic perversion--because, for example, she is lucky enough not to have run across the notion--her negative feelings will merely "build up" and then "come out in a more extreme way," so that she would have been better off engaging in, and even becoming psychologically addicted to, a relatively mild form of masochistic perversion to prevent her feelings from "building up." In fact, I think this is downright false, and dangerously so.

Anxiety can be built _by_ "acting out." You seem also to have the erroneous psychological idea that "getting it out of your system" is of paramount importance.

Again, I think cutting is precisely not "getting it out of your system."

My own take is that perhaps what needs to be done most of all is to get her away from people who are tearing her down and helping to make her feel that way and to find her some new friends.

As soon as you phrase it like this, without emphasis on the symptom, we agree.

Most girls self esteem depends on how they look. Get them plastic surgery, it'll make them feel much better. Little alterations can really change an outlook. When I was younger my sister feel off her bike and broke her front tooth, it became completely black, but it was risky to get a crown due to the severe structural damage. She had to wait for a long period of time, but when we eventually got her the crown she was as happy as it's possible to be. I know Christians will respond with 'it's not what she feels on the outside, but on the inside that counts, yadahyadahyadah'

Baloney. Looks count an enormous amount for girls, for proven evolutionary-genetic reasons, much more so than for men. So the best gift you can give your daughter if shes average looking and depressed is plastic surgery. Look, in one simple manoeuvre Irina">http://rinaface.blogspot.com/>Irina changes from an 8">http://bp3.blogger.com/_flHoPwNxcSQ/RnQJSOJpBGI/AAAAAAAAAWI/wmpIXkrwW9w/s1600-h/MyPicture.jpg>8 to a 9

. Is it really any different to makeup?

This is a crude assessment. Of course there is a huge difference between repairing damage and "correcting" the terrible fault of a girl's being "average looking." Yada, yada yourself. Any girl who is depressed because she is "average looking" has a seriously confused view of the world, probably picked up from high-pressure, worldly, same-age peer groups or television, in which she should not have been immersed in the first place.

"probably picked up from high-pressure, worldly, same-age peer groups or television"

Yeah, or more likely - it's the truth, and good looking girls do have it a lot easier. Notice in high school that girls effectively segregate on the basis of looks, you say 'society' is the cause of this, but I say - genetics, like sticks with like. These girls have an innate sense that they will ultimately be paired off with the Alphas of the tribe, and thus they have a tendency to stick together. Female status is acquired by excluding other girls (watch Mean Girls/Devil Wears Prada), invariably the less attractive (male status, on the other hand, is acquired by having a large number of allies and underlings, ie inclusion).

Beauty can be measured objectively, just like intelligence. The only difference is that increased beauty can now be purchased, while (unfortunately) increased IQ cannot. Actually that's an interesting question - would you be willing to give your daughter an IQ boost if a simple and safe procedure were available?

Nope. Children are begotten, not made. Before or after birth.

It's tough going, isn't it Lydia? :)

I really appreciate your ideas.

An easy decision for you perhaps, your daughter's probably smart. But what if she wasn't? Say IQ 79?

Mr. C., it would, in my opinion, be wrong in that circumstance as well to perform a "procedure" on a child to "boost his IQ."

I note, however, that you seem to advocate "enhancement" on the merely "average" so that they can be "alphas." A very bad idea.

And, by the way, even from the point of view of adaptiveness--if we must speak in sociobiological terms--all else is rarely equal. I doubt very much that a statistical survey in the United States would find that the most classically physically beautiful women are those that are reproducing the most. Not by a long shot. By my observation, the "average"-looking women are doing quite as well in that regard, indeed, better. I leave it to your intelligence and imagination to conjecture the many reasons why.

Irrelevant point considering we're talking about self esteem, doesn't take any effort for a girl to get pregnant, sperm is cheap - I assume a good bulk of single mothers are average to below average. Indeed many average women become pregnant on purpose, usually in a vain attempt to hold onto a man, but end up as single mothers, with their baby as a source of self esteem. If they were better looking it'd be easier to acquire a husband and make him stay. Life sucks.

Really? So more average-looking than pretty women have their boyfriends or husbands leave them? I doubt it. Anecdotally, it looks false to me. I know plenty of pretty women who have been dumped and plenty of average-looking and even funny-looking women who are happily married long-term.

The truth is, sir, that you are just engaging in the most shallow of shallow sociobiology: "Guys like female beauty, so guys marry beautiful women more and stay with them more." Honestly, I have to wonder where your powers of observation are!

The truth is that young women--pretty and otherwise--think nowadays that they have to sleep with guys to keep them, and then it doesn't work out that way. As the saying goes, why buy the cow when you're getting the milk for free? Many beautiful women are insecure, unhappy, and self-absorbed. After all, we were just told that the beautiful Angelina Jolie was out there cutting herself, while I know plenty of "average-looking" young ladies with a healthy attitude who would never think of it. Our society is seriously messed up and even values physically unadaptive traits, such as starvation-level thinness.

Chances of long-term marital happiness are far more directly influenced by factors other than great physical beauty. _Most_ men marry women who are not beautiful, and most old married women never were beautiful. Look around you.

In short, while girls may do these crazy things because, as I said, they think they are ugly, it would be stupid in the extreme to argue that, hey, they are rational to worry about their physical appearance because the poor girls realize the dark truth that they will never be "alphas." Spare me. They are irrational, on many levels, some of them even having to do with their chances of earthly happiness.

Sorry for the long post .I must admit that I agree with Lydia, in that kids today are exposed to far to many destructive “ideas” and that some control of exposure to external influences is probably a very good idea. How many here think that it would be a good idea to leave Dr Kevorkian’s number with someone contemplating suicide? Likewise leaving literature around that suggests novel forms of anti social behaviour to teenagers may not be a smart idea.

Children need to be exposed to the real world but it should be done gradually. Kids should be exposed to the mechanics of sex, the presence of illicit drugs and other potentially dangerous stuff at an age which is appropriate. Kids today are exposed far too early to this stuff and in a way that I sometimes wonder doesn’t actually encourage their experimentation.

As I see it, the two main teenage psychological drives are an incredible narcissism and a desire to socially conform to the group that they belong to or that accepts them. This is more so with girls than with boys. Nine times out of ten, how a teenager turns out is more dependent on their peer group than parental influences. The best way of influencing your children is to vet their friends. The self assertion that many teenagers have is the violent desire to conform to their friends.

As genetics blesses only a few with stunning beauty, many women fall short of the ideal and as such depression in teenage girls is almost so common as to be considered part of growing up You may have the most supportive group of friends and family in the world; but if you’re ugly, the world lets you know it. Girls pick up pretty quickly that they are not being asked out on dates and that the boys are hanging around the other girls who look different to her. Soon the girl realizes that the supportive words from her friends are pretty hollow. Christian friends, trying to build her up and tell her that she is beautiful only teach her that while Christians may care, they also lie. The love of Jesus Christ counts for little when the boy she has a crush on has rejected her advances and is kissing her best friend

In my experience the depression that these girls get has two mechanisms. A benign form in which that the girl thinks she is ugly and therefore unlovable. Physical beauty is a mechanism to obtain love. They are usually “fixed up” when they get a sincere boyfriend. The second mechanism is more malignant; here the girl is depressed because as she is not beautiful she cannot obtain the alpha female status that beauty confers. Here the problem is status denial. These groups are a real pain to treat and though they may appear all sugar and spice, there are some really mean women in this group. Lydia my suspicion is that this friend of yours may belong to this group. In this groups view, anything less than the alpha female is ugly.

My experience of self mutilators is rather than it being a cry for help, it tends to be a form of manipulative behaviour with secondary gain. The “shock and awe” of the effect of “cutting” upon others sure the hell beats the response to taking an overdose of Tylenol. If you really want to get back at your boyfriend, parents , society etc and really freak them out slash your wrists. The benefits of cutting may include notoriety, change in behaviour of parents, enjoying friends suffer and so on. Every now and then the self mutilating behaviour accidentally gets out of hand and the self mutilator harms themselves beyond intent, but them is the breaks.


SP, your experience is really interesting here, because you're actually treating people in this situation, whereas I'm just hearing about it at a distance. Would you say that the manipulativeness aspect is true also where the girl isn't doing anything that even looks like a suicide attempt (like wrist-slashing)? I had been under the impression that a lot of this was poking with pins and small cuts elsewhere on the arms and legs that no one would even mistake for attempted suicide, so the manipulation and shock value would be lower, I would think. But I can still see how a girl might use even that to get attention. That fits with adolescent psychology. A much milder version would be the child who is unpopular and pretends to be sick to get sympathy and attention.

The two cases I was told of by their professor involved girls who _said_ they wanted to stop but were unable to do so because now they were psychologically addicted to it. I suppose that might have been a lie to get the professor's attention...

Oh, by the way, update: I'm told by a reliable source that this behavior was in his public high school already twenty years ago. So it looks like I've been more slow to hear of the trend even than I thought.

Fine. But I certainly intend to give my children the best possible start in life, and because I know that looks count the most for girls, such is the cruel reality of the world, I would buy her plastic surgery if required. The current distribution of intelligence and beauty is monstrously unfair, it should be equalized, and modern science will make that happen.

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/dangerous07/dangerous07_index.html

Would you say that the manipulativeness aspect is true also where the girl isn't doing anything that even looks like a suicide attempt (like wrist-slashing)?

Generally yes, but you have to judge things on a case by case basis. I wouldn’t underestimate the shock value of self mutilation though; it really upsets the parents and friends of the perpetrator. With some of the more difficult self mutilators I have had to deal with, I often got the impression that they loved the fuss and bother that they generated. The perpetrator suddenly becomes the centre of attention of a whole bunch of doctors, psychologists, police, etc. and a lot of people like being the centre of attention. I was talking to a stripper the other day who stated the same thing. One of her prime motivators in her choice of “career” was the pleasure she got from being the centre of attention of hundreds of males. Shallow people shallow lives, but it’s the way of the world.

Cuchulkhan; Yep, in a certain way you’re right. Hot chicks get the pick of the men in this world, and life certainly gives them more opportunities than with plain girls. But in my practice I see no evidence that they are able to use the gifts that nature has given them wisely. They get more men but they get dumped more often. Most of them are just as superficial as the jerks they marry,with the predictable consequences. I would hazard to say that—at least in my practice—pretty girls are more frequently depressed than their plainer counterparts. They get more opportunities but they also get more opportunities to stuff up. Just as having too much money when you are young is probably not good for the development of character I also feel that being too attractive may also expose one to significant moral hazard. Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears and Angelina Jollie are all alpha females: that is, if you like white trash. Their record of psychiatric well being speaks for itself.

As for my own taste: class, style and intelligence always beats Sports Illustrated looks. Triple digit I.Q. is more sexy than double D breasts.

I've been wondering where the Social P. has been. Interesting comments as usual. class, style and intelligence always beats Sports Illustrated looks I hope you're referring to the swimsuit issue, because what's found in the others won't do it for me.

In my own case (I can't imagine that this is true of my friend S's daughter) I was _told_ that I was ugly, repeatedly I wish there were some way I could take revenge for you, because there was never a time when this was true. Mere beauty becomes boring without those qualities the Social P. mentioned. She doesn't even have to be very smart, just a lady in the classic sense. Nothing's sexier (in an enduring sense) or more beautiful than a woman whose center is her family.

"They get more men but they get dumped more often."

Any statistical evidence for this assertion? because I'd assume that men would be MORE willing to invest time and resources in attractive women, while merely providing the below average with sperm and nothing else. For this reason what Lydia said here; "The truth is that young women--pretty and otherwise--think nowadays that they have to sleep with guys to keep them", is probably untrue for hot girls. Hot girls can easily make men wait around longer and not bow to pressure, because from the male perspective the ultimate prize is greater.

"Most of them are just as superficial as the jerks they marry,with the predictable consequences."

Debatable. There is a mild correlation between looks and IQ, more attractive women have a tendency to be smarter due to the 'Henry Kissinger' phenomenon - ugly alpha male geniuses attract very hot girls, so their children have both beauty and brains. Hot blonde LA girls are surprisingly intelligent due to this phenomenon (LA being a vast magnet for beautiful women across America trying to marry movie producers etc)

Attractive women usually feel good about themselves, and people who feel good about themselves are usually more social, more willing to participate in community activities, more conscientious, more religious, more chaste* etc. There is no reason to believe Paris Hilton is the statistical average.

Now as a final point: there is a difference between superhot and girl-next-door hot, and the latter is more desirable for men in the long run, and plastic surgeons can easily replicate subtle girl next door beauty, it doesn't all have to be perfectly angled chiseling. This post shows the differences: http://rinaface.blogspot.com/2006/04/american-apparel-feel-controversy.html

*Yes yes, I said more chaste. Gene Expression's Jason Malloy explored the relationship between IQ and virginity recently. For all those who think universities are playgrounds for godless hedonists, here's an interesting stat: "only 65% of MIT graduate students have had sex. "
http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2007/04/intercourse-and-intelligence.php

Thanks, Bill!

Any statistical evidence for this assertion?

Nope, just based on my experience but I’ve got a pretty big sample size. I freely admit that I might see a skewed population which may not represent the norm, but I doubt it.

Most of them are as superficial as the jerks that they marry.

What’s superficiality got to do with IQ? Smart people can be just as pre occupied with image and standing as any moron. Superficiality is the characteristic of judging on appearances rather than substance: It’s a character fault, not a mental defect. Btw, the superficial may be attractive but they generally tend to be unlovable.


I'd assume that men would be MORE willing to invest time and resources in attractive women…..

Getting laid regularly is not the same as finding love. Pretty women have no problem at all in getting sex with whom they want. The only problem is, after a while the sex with the pretty woman become no different that the sex with another pretty woman. After the sexual act is over you still have to talk to her, make plans etc. Why commit? A hot chick determines who gets to sleep with her, but she cannot determine who gets to stay with her: that’s a free act by another person. I wonder why L.A.-- with all those kissenger type hot babes--is not known as the world centre for stable marriages? Beats me. Being attractive sure gives you a greater choice of mates but it does not guarantee love.

Oh, Chastity and I.Q; your point being that there is positive correlate. No doubt there is but I doubt it’s for the reasons you think. The ones studying hard in high school to get into college are most probably the dorky kids in class i.e. the unattractive with low self esteem. I think it was this proposition which hit the nail on the head,

Another idea, consistent with popular media portrayals of geeks and nerds (males at least), is that intelligent people actually want to have sex, but are simply less likely or unable to obtain willing partners because they are disproportionately viewed as unattractive or undesirable as partners.

Math, engineering and science nerds are not known for their social graces and this is reflected in their virginity rates in the same articles you cite. Watson-- of double helix-- fame was quite open of his loneliness during his time at university. Presumably he wasn't very attractive.

For all those who think universities are playgrounds for godless hedonists, here's an interesting stat: "only 65% of MIT graduate students have had sex. "
http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2007/04/intercourse-and-intelligence.php

What does 'not having had sex' have to do with not being godless?

Just because there's a percentage of university students in MIT who haven't had sex doesn't prove that they are NOT godless or that they are NOT hedonists or even both.

Hmm, italics off?

For the record, the list of celebrity cutters includes Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, and Princess Diana. So attractiveness seems to be a nonstarter in terms of preventing this behavior.

From the bit of info I found on the internet, it does seem to be viewed as a coping mechanism for extreme insecurity rather than a narcissistic device, although one motivation does not prohibit the other. In either case, good luck to SP in treating them.

culchulcan's primary problem seems to be that he sees the human condition to be primarily a function of predestination due to genetics (physical appearance in this case). In reality, a human being is remarkably able to conform to the expectations that his culture establishes. Because of this, if he raises a daughter with the mindset that beauty, whether girl-next-door hotness (eyeroll!!!) or superhotness (ibid), is all-important then he will undoubtedly see her self-image improve when he buys her some beauty at the local plastic surgeons. OTOH, if a person's culture emphasizes living the virtues, kindness, piety, etc as being beautiful, then her self-esteem will depend on these factors, not as much on the characteristics which are essentially out of her control (surgeon or none), and fleeting in any case.

If it is true that we value what our culture values, and we are not just automatons controlled by our 46 chromosomes, (and it most definitely is), then it would be best to raise our kids in a culture that is self-selected to prize the attributes of the mind and soul which are traditionally thought of as good, not the shifting sands of adolescent/young adult physical beauty.

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